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Workers’ Studio: El Co-op Exhibit at Queens Museum

Workers’ Studio: El Co-op is a series of collaborative art projects that use art as a tool for worker-led organizing. The Workers’ Studio is nomadic, and functions mostly in Day Laborers’ Worker Centers as a weekly encounter facilitated by artist (and 2019 SLU alumna) Sol Aramendi. Aramendi works on socially engaged art collaborations that are part of an evolving social sculpture integrating labor, immigration and art. Workers use the studio to create art projects that support their organizing and advocacy. The exhibition features a series of photographs, writing and works created by the participants.

The exhibition runs through January 12th at the Queens Museum located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Click here for more information.

New Labor Forum Highlights: November 2019

The New Labor Forum has a monthly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

Two historically important strikes came to a close last week, as 49,000 GM workers returned to work after the longest national work stoppage against the automaker in half a century; and 25,000 teachers and 7,500 school employees headed back to Chicago schools after landmark gains in negotiations with the city. Part of a rising tide of victorious strikes during the past two years, these workplace actions represent advancements worth noting in both public and private sector bargaining.

With $8.1 billion in earnings at GM in 2018 and $1.5 million in annual salary going to chief executive Mary Barra, UAW members were hell-bent on sharing in the company’s reversal of fortune since the Great Recession. A primary bargaining concern for workers was to raise the abysmal wages at the low end of their multi-tier contract, which included both temporary workers and “in progression workers” hired after 2007. A hallmark divide and conquer tool of management, multi-tier wage scales sell out the unborn by establishing lower wages and benefits for new hires, thus undermining worker solidarity and, in effect, giving employers reason to target older, more expensive workers. Undoing a multi-tier contract, which is precisely what UAW members managed to do, requires a heightened level of worker solidarity, given the need to direct contract gains toward workers on the lower end, in this case roughly 37% of the GM workforce. This sort of egalitarianism, heightened solidarity, and militancy in the private sector, the core of our economy, bodes well for a labor movement struggling to revive itself.

The Chicago Teachers Union − a leader in experimentation with a promising new strategy called Bargaining for the Common Good − won major concessions last week from the city in the form of contract language that went well beyond traditional negotiations over wages and benefits. Putting the demands of their community-based allies on the bargaining table, the union won lower class sizes and guarantees that every school will employ a nurse and social worker, as well as 120 new counselors, restorative justice coordinators and librarians in the highest-need schools, and improved staffing in bilingual and special education. These demands, including an unmet bargaining demand for affordable housing, make the union an increasingly powerful voice in policy-level concerns that impact educational outcomes. The strategic advance of Bargaining for the Common Good in the public sector presents a dramatic advance in joining the interests of worker and tax-payers in securing well-funded, equitable, high quality public services. The CTU strike, joined by SEIU Local 73, points the way in that direction.

With this installment of the newsletter, we offer a New Labor Forum article by Jobs with Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley that assesses organized labor’s growing militancy and innovation during the last year. We also bring to your attention to new publication from Labor Notes , “How to Strike and Win ,” which seeks to encourage and inform the rising tide of strikes by providing analysis and resources for unions and workers contemplating how, why and when to use the strike weapon.

Table of Contents

  1. Crisis, Creativity, and a Labor Movement Revival /  Erica Smiley, New Labor Forum
  2. How to Strike and Win/ Labor Notes, November 2019 Issue

Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (cc-by-sa)

Introducing: City Works

City Works is a NEW monthly news magazine program produced by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU) in collaboration with CUNY TV and hosted by Laura Flanders. The show’s mission is to create is a visual and thematic presentation of work, workers and worker organizations, employing topical examinations of the changing nature of work, tributes to unsung heroes, and analysis of the enduring challenges faced by workers. The show will spotlight the vast array of occupations of working people across New York City, and explore individual and collective efforts to make a better life for workers and a more prosperous and equitable society.

The first episode features an interview with former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, a field report on the gig economy, and on-the job profiles of a nail salon worker and one of New York City’s remaining blacksmiths. It also has a “Culture at Work” segment highlighting subway musicians.

City Works will appear the first Monday of every month at 8 PM.

 

Worker Education Launches CUNY Days

Worker Education at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies is excited to launch a new semester of “CUNY Days,” in partnership with the DC37 Education Fund.

CUNY Days offers free one-on-one advisement sessions with experienced pre-admission advisors for DC37 members, held at union headquarters (125 Barclay St, NYC). Our advisors begin each session by discussing participants’ career goals then recommending various academic pathways at SLU and/or greater CUNY that could lead toward achieving this goal. Depending on the individual’s needs, sessions might also include application assistance, exploration of various industries and local labor market data, guidance on accessing union tuition benefits and financial aid, and more.

Schedule your session today by visiting CUNYDays.eventbrite.com.

Can’t find a date/time that works for you? Please contact us at WorkerEd@slu.cuny.edu or 212-857-1976.

SLU Professors Publish Annual State of the Unions Report

With the release of their annual report on the state of labor in the United States, SLU professors Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce have shown that organized labor remains far stronger in New York City and state than elsewhere in the nation — but that union erosion has also contributed disproportionately to low-wage job growth.

Ten-years after the Great Recession of 2008, employment has rebounded in New York City and in New York state, where the unemployment rate was 4.0% in July 2019. However, this job growth has been disproportionately concentrated in low-wage industries, especially in the private sector. This year’s report, State of the Unions 2019, A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State, and the United States, reveals that in recent decades, losses in union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector, a trend that accelerated after the Great Recession. By contrast, in the public sector, union density has been relatively stable in the City, while declining slightly over the past few years in the U.S. and New York State. Continue reading SLU Professors Publish Annual State of the Unions Report

CUNY SLU Appoints Deepak Bhargava as Distinguished Lecturer of Urban Studies

Starting this fall, CUNY SLU will have another long-time social justice leader in its ranks: Deepak Bhargava has been appointed to serve as Distinguished Lecturer of Urban Studies, filling one of the school’s rotating Distinguished Lecturer positions.

Mr. Bhargava brings more than 25 years of experience in public policy, campaign building, social justice advocacy, and non-profit management. For 16 years, he served as President and Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, one of the country’s pre-eminent centers for grassroots community organizing in low-income communities of color. 

“I am incredibly excited to work with the CUNY SLU students and faculty,” said Mr. Bhargava. “This is a community that is deeply committed to labor rights and community issues, and it is an honor to be able to learn from and work with such talented and committed people. As a long-time non-profit leader and social justice campaigner, I look forward to contributing to this growing community of thinkers and doers, and to helping to develop the people and ideas that will power a new era of social change.”

As a frontline activist, Mr. Bhargava has played a major role in several national efforts to bring about change through collective action. He has strengthened the field of community organizing in the U.S., nurtured the modern immigrant rights movement; helped launch national coalitions to fight for health care reform, reduce poverty and advance immigrant rights; and trained thousands of young leaders and activists.

 Deepak Bhargava brings an immense amount of knowledge and real-world practice to the classroom,” explains SLU Founding Dean Gregory Mantsios. “His commitment to uplifting underserved communities exemplifies the CUNY SLU belief that with concerted efforts we can make our City, State and nation a better place for all.”

Mr.  Bhargava currently serves on the boards of the Open Society Foundations (US), JPB Foundation, Bauman Foundation, as well as the editorial board of The Nation magazine. He has written extensively about community organizing, public policy related to poverty and economic justice, progressive strategy, civic engagement and racial justice among many other topics. 

This coming semester, Mr. Bhargava will lecture both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, teaching courses in “Public Issues” and “Social and Economic Policy in the U.S.”

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Bhargava join the SLU faculty,” explains Urban Studies Department Chair Steve London. “Our students will greatly benefit from his years of social justice advocacy, activism, policy expertise, and experience in campaign building and grassroots organizing.  Our faculty looks forward to collaborating with Mr. Bhargava on important research topics such as immigrant rights, and I have no doubt that his contributions to the SLU community will help us fulfill our social justice and workers’ rights mission.”